Wyoming oil and gas production saw a decrease in spills for 2022
Out of the three top-producing oil and gas states in our region, Wyoming was the only one to report a decrease in spills in 2022. But, some say there is still room for improvement.
The Center for Western Priorities, a conservation advocacy non-profit group, recently released an analysis of spill report data for the oil and gas industry in three states – Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. Wyoming saw a decrease in liquid spilled by about 40 percent from 2021, with just over a million spills in 2022. The spills include everything from oil to produced water.
But, Kate Groetzinger, the Center of Western Priorities communications manager, said there is a caveat.
“Although the number of spills per barrel of oil produced in Wyoming has gone down in the past couple of years, the overall number of spills per barrel of oil produced compared to other states is still really high,” Groetzinger said.
While the amount of liquid spilled did decrease, the rate at which it happens compared to the number of barrels of oil produced is still high compared to the other two states. For example, New Mexico produces more oil than Wyoming, but the rate at which the spills happen per barrel of oil produced is higher in Wyoming.
That is why Ryan McConnaughey, the Petroleum Association of Wyoming (PAW) vice president, said it does not show the whole picture. The actual amount of liquid spilled is still much lower in Wyoming.
“All of the spills that occurred last year total less than one-one hundredth of a percent of all of the production in Wyoming,” he said. “So we're talking about a very minute amount of spill, when compared to the total amount of production in Wyoming.”
Groetzinger said Wyoming still has room for improvement. For example, in Wyoming, industry self-reports spills, and she would like to see more oversight. She added that she would like to see Wyoming have to report the distance of spills to water sources, which some other states require.
“So Colorado is a great example,” she said. “They collect information on the distance of surface water and well water from these spills. So when you've got an oil spill, or toxic produced water spill, near a well or near a place where people are pulling water for livestock, or even human drinking, this can really impact the health of people, livestock and wild animals.”
McConnaughey disagreed, saying Wyoming does have strict regulations for operations and self-reports of spills.
“Those reports are required to go to the oil and gas commission, and then the commission determines whether additional requirements are necessary,” McConnaughey said.
The majority of spills were from the companies Merit and Carbon Creek and were concentrated in Carbon and Converse counties.